Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀̀

Reviewer: Catriona Troth

What We Thought:

“I understand how a word others use every day can become something whispered in the dark to sooth a wound that just won’t heal.”

Stay With Me is the Baileys’ shortlisted debut novel by Nigerian author Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀̀. Rotimi, ‘Stay With Me’, is the name given to a child who is expected to die in infancy and Stay With Me recounts a heartbreaking cycle of sexual dysfunction, sexual ignorance, barrenness and infant mortality, within a family and a community that values bearing and rearing healthy children above all else.

Its point of view is split between Yejide and her husband Akin. The timeframe, too, is split between 2008, when the couple have been separated for many years and Yejide is steeling herself to return for the father-in-law’s funeral, and the 1980s, when, as a childless married couple, they feel the pressure piled on them by their two families. What follows unrolls against the backdrop of political disintegration and Nigeria’s second military dictatorship.

Yejide is driven almost to madness by the relentless need to get pregnant. Akin’s pride blinkers him to the truth of what is happening and builds a barrier between himself and Yejide that love simply is not enough to overcome. And even it seems their hopes have been realised, more sadness awaits.

Tragic as their story is, the novel is shot through dark humour. The chatter of the women in Yejide’s hairdressing salon is rich with practical wisdom, superstition, dry wit and sexual innuendo.

“Just wait until her breasts are sweet orange and all the men that see her start standing still like soldiers. Small time, pregnancy will come.”

A universal story set in a richly realised world. A welcome new African voice and a writer to watch.

You’ll Enjoy This If You Loved: Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta, The Mother by Yvvette Edwards

Avoid If You Dislike: Reading about the deaths of small children

Perfect Accompaniment: Jollof rice

Genre: Literary Fiction, Fiction from Africa

Available on Amazon

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